How Zoominfo is making a Quantum Leap in Infrastructure Operations by employing an Internal Developer Platform

By ZoomInfo Engineering, Gal Bakal, May 1, 2024


Zoominfo has embarked on a transformative journey, revolutionizing infrastructure-related business processes by pioneering new capabilities. Our revolutionary platform accelerates end-to-end workflows by a Quantum Leap factor (~1500X(!)), providing developers with standardized and governed infrastructure resources within minutes instead of days. This strategic leap aligns with our unwavering commitment to organizational standards, cost-efficiency, security, compliance, and operational excellence.

Embracing the API Economy and Public Cloud Benefits

Our exponential growth in recent years alongside mergers and acquisitions has raised our internal complexity of delivering software and moreover, governance solutions that scale and help developer flow. Due to the diversity of the tech stack, the rise of public cloud managed capabilities and accelerated innovation with Software as a Service (SaaS) capabilities have effectively lowered the entry barrier for competitors in the software engineering domain.

Depiction: The problem statement is that developers outside Zoominfo can easily onboard applications using public cloud capabilities instantaneously, while internal developers face obstacles due to a governance framework. This leads to manual interventions, coordination efforts, and a poor developer experience, which in turn hampers innovation and extends lead times within our organization.

This necessitates the governance of external providers’ capabilities, the establishment of infrastructure engineering standards, and the deployment of an operational model to efficiently manage these resources. Zoominfo recognized the potential to democratize access to public cloud infrastructure within our organization, thereby enabling us to provision and maintain resources instantaneously for our internal developers. Aligning with this vision, we have incorporated organizational standards to address spending control, security measures, and compliance requirements.

Depiction of the Ideal state: A developer within Zoominfo asks for an infrastructure resource, self-serving himself by going through a front-end API-based client (Portal, CLI,  IDE Plugin, Bot, etc) through the internal developer platform to provide a standardized infrastructure within minutes.

Sociotechnical Structure Mirroring Microservices

Zoominfo envisions a future where developers work independently, innovating and crafting capabilities that cater to product and customer needs. Our approach reflects a deep respect for the technical structure of API-based microservices, creating an ecosystem of readily consumable capabilities across any product team in the organization. This strategy is underpinned by the need to democratize access to resources while embracing community-driven development.

Meeting the Governance Challenge: Centralized and Decentralized Models

In response to the need for streamlined governance of cloud infrastructure, Zoominfo has implemented a centralized developer-centric platform model and a decentralized Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) model. The former provides Golden Paths for developers to seamlessly onboard and operate service infrastructure, while the latter entrusts engineers within product delivery teams with the responsibility of ensuring service reliability and availability. This dual model fosters a symbiotic environment, where reliability and innovation are paramount.

Our strategic framework for creating our internal developer platform:

 Aligning with Principles of Public Cloud Operations

1. API-first Approach: Our strategy emphasizes the foundational role of API contracts in our development processes, facilitating consistency and software integration from the initial stages.

2. Customer-Centric Approach: We prioritize the creation of new capabilities based on the pain points experienced by our internal customers, ensuring that our solutions directly address their needs.

3. Golden Paths: Streamlining the onboarding process through clear, well-instrumented routes allows developers to deploy services rapidly within the framework of organizational standards.

4. Orchestration and Reusability of Capabilities: Our infrastructure is orchestrated into a modular, interconnected system that ensures the reusability of components.

5. Gitops ”As code” Design Principle – every resource is a declaration of code that represents the desired state of the resource. The state is constantly being reconciled throughout the resource lifecycle.

6. Scaling Through Inner Sourcing: By encouraging contributions towards the platform’s growth, we foster a collaborative environment that simplifies the creation of new ‘Golden Paths’.

Our mission:

To simplify Zoominfo’s Internal Developer Interaction with standardized Cloud Infrastructure components, reducing friction and increasing their flow to produce Zoominfo’s Customer value –

In a programmable and UI Fashion. Empowering them with patterns, and tools for best practices, while governing their Security, Compliance, and Spending/Cost.

Our vision:

A reliable system of end-to-end automated workflows, and standardized resource management that provides proper authorization and approvals to enable ZoomInfo engineers with an efficient software development life cycle

Our charter for our core orchestration capability:

Build a system that automates Infrastructure-related operations that are currently taking up to 5 days to complete, automate them end to end to be executed in 5 minutes, and serve them as a self-service action.

Abstract depiction of the Internal Developer Platform, where a request is generated from the presentation layer, through the core Platform which by turn serves internal and external capabilities.

IDP Core Flow architecture on Backstage:

The platform suggests a standardized Infrastructure template(s) of IaC:

  • An infrastructure provisioning request arrives from a client with the respectful parameters
  • Job is placed in a workflow queue
  • The IDP Core worker picks up the request and merges the standardized template with the input parameters to create a new IaC object,  committed to a code repository.
  • Infrastructure is created in the cloud provider by a SaaS provisioner
  • IDP Core monitors the state of the requested resource
  • The resource is registered in an asset inventory management system
  • The client is notified of the status and relevant details about the provisioned resource.

Remarkable Business Outcomes and Organizational Investment

Zoominfo’s endeavor will significantly increase team autonomy, effectively minimizing planning overhead and external dependencies, empowering our teams to focus on relentless innovation and value delivery. Our strategic investment in platform engineering is a testament to our unwavering commitment to fostering a leading-edge engineering organization. Furthermore, the essentiality of platform engineering for large organizations is indisputable. It underlines the foundation for expedited and efficient software development, offering focused approaches for developers and curating distinctive, tailored toolchains. This systemic infrastructure will allow in-house engineers to stay focused on innovation, shaping new products and refining existing ones at a dramatically accelerated pace.

In conclusion, Zoominfo recognizes the transformative power of platform engineering and our commitment to shaping resilient and forward-thinking engineering practices. By advocating for autonomy, reduced planning overhead, and a strong emphasis on innovation, we build a precedent for enduring technological and operational excellence.

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